phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Keep your friends close...

Posted by Lewis on April 05, 2004

In Reply to: Keep your friends close... posted by Henry on April 04, 2004

: : Hi--Does anyone know the origin of the admonition to "keep your friends close, but your enemies closer"?

: : Thanks for any info...

: We discussed this on 1st April! From further down the page;

: Posted by Brian from Shawnee on April 03, 2004 In Reply to: "keep your friends close but your enemies closer" posted by Brian from Shawnee on April 02, 2004

: : : I think the person who orginally said "keep your friends close but your enimies closer" was Mobutu, a ruler of Zaire\the Congo who manipulated several politicians into giving him money and allowing him to stay in power

: : I guess Mobutu lived near the cemetery, then...
: : Anyway, I heard the "friends close... enemies closer..." line in a beer commercial a few years back. Radio, New York market, upscale/yuppy product, but I forget which beer it was. Might've been a beer alternative.

: Some googling indicates that this quote appeared in the Godfather films, and was spoken by Al Pacino's character, which I believe was Michael Corleone. However, that's not where it originated. Many sources attribute the quote to Sun Tzu in The Art of War, but others dispute that. Some say it was taken from an interpretation of Macchiavelli's The Prince, but I could not find anyone who cited a page number or chapter in that book.

: Apparently the phrase did not originate with Mobutu Sese Seko, the bloodthirsty dictator of Congo/Zaire.

I have Googled a bit and although the saying is attributed to "The Art of War" - it is a distillation of the meaning of a few verses, not actually said as such.

In the section on "Intelligence/Spies" The Art of War says :

21. The enemy's spies who have come to spy on us
must be sought out, tempted with bribes, led away and
comfortably housed. Thus they will become converted
spies and available for our service.

22. It is through the information brought by the
converted spy that we are able to acquire and employ
local and inward spies.

23. It is owing to his information, again, that we can
cause the doomed spy to carry false tidings to the enemy.

24. Lastly, it is by his information that the surviving
spy can be used on appointed occasions.

25. The end and aim of spying in all its five varieties
is knowledge of the enemy; and this knowledge can only
be derived, in the first instance, from the converted spy. Hence it is essential that the converted spy be treated
with the utmost liberality.

I have not Googled "The Book of Five Rings" by Mushashi, nor The Prince yet.